Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

A memoir of the National War College and its ‘technical school’ approach

Some people think I have it in for the War Colleges. Nope, I don’t. I think they just need to justify their existences, or face closure as the defense budget implodes in the coming years. So by prodding them now I may be helping them tomorrow. (You’re welcome, Air War College!) And if they cannot ...

coddogblog/Flickr
coddogblog/Flickr

Some people think I have it in for the War Colleges. Nope, I don't. I think they just need to justify their existences, or face closure as the defense budget implodes in the coming years. So by prodding them now I may be helping them tomorrow. (You're welcome, Air War College!) And if they cannot justify their costs, they should indeed be closed.

I mention this because the friendly mailman brings a book by Howard Wiarda, a professor of international relations at the University of Georgia who spent some time teaching at the National War College. BLUF: He was not impressed.

Here are some of his conclusions:

Some people think I have it in for the War Colleges. Nope, I don’t. I think they just need to justify their existences, or face closure as the defense budget implodes in the coming years. So by prodding them now I may be helping them tomorrow. (You’re welcome, Air War College!) And if they cannot justify their costs, they should indeed be closed.

I mention this because the friendly mailman brings a book by Howard Wiarda, a professor of international relations at the University of Georgia who spent some time teaching at the National War College. BLUF: He was not impressed.

Here are some of his conclusions:

1. The War College was extremely authoritarian and top-down. It did not function like any college (lower case) that I’d ever seen. It was not a ‘college’ or ‘university’ at all but a military base run on a command system. It had not made the compromises necessary to be both a military institution and a serious teaching and educational institution.

2. The curriculum … was more like a manual in a technical school than a serious graduate curriculum.

3. … There was no room for new or original ideas …

8. I don’t think the military brass who run NWC … have the foggiest notion of what a college or university is all about.”     

(pp. 152-153)

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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